Celebrating the heroes
The Coalition on Human Needs and close to two hundred advocates celebrated CHN’s 15th annual Human Needs Hero reception Thursday, July 19.
CHN’s honorees this year represented the surge of activism that has swept across the country over the past 18 months. They included:
Helen Blank of the National Women’s Law Center, seen by many as the matriarch of the quality, affordable child care movement.
Dale Lee, President of the West Virginia Education Association. Lee helped lead a nine-day teacher walkout that drew national and international attention, led to a substantial increase in education funding in West Virginia, and helped precipitate similar actions in other states.
Carmen Perez, National Co-Chair, Women’s March. Drawing an estimated five million participants at hundreds of rallies around the globe, the Women’s March is thought to be the best-attended protest event in U.S. history.
Carlil Pittman, Youth Organizer for Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE). Carlil uses his compelling personal story to tackle the school-to-prison pipeline by pushing for an end to harsh disciplinary policies in schools.
Ellen Teller, Chairwoman of CHN’s Board of Directors and Director of Government Affairs for the Food Research & Action Center, chaired Thursday’s event and referred to the “tsunami of activism” that has occurred since Donald J. Trump was sworn in as President exactly 18 months ago.
“Our honorees represent some of the leadership behind this surge of activism in all its beautiful variety: some with decades of experience and expertise – and some, refreshingly new and somewhat younger,” Teller said.
She noted the history of the CHN event – the first time it was held, it was intentionally scheduled for the summer so that interns and fellows – young people – could attend.
“Today we revel in the engagement of our youth leaders who not only join us – but lead us – pushing back against threats to our health care, efforts to weaken or gut programs that support and protect low-income individuals and families, policies that discriminate and dehumanize immigrants, communities of color, the LGBTQ community and the poor, and the cruel and intolerable refusal to act despite tragic recurrences of gun violence,” Teller said.
The current political atmosphere in the U.S. – and the many fights human needs advocates are facing in Congress – formed a sometimes sober backdrop to Thursday’s festivities.
“You may have noticed – we’re up against it these days,” said CHN Executive Director Deborah Weinstein. “But when we prevail, and we will, it will be because of the passionate and effective leadership of people like our Human Needs Heroes, Carmen Perez, Carlil Pittman, Dale Lee and Helen Blank.”